Tag Archives: warcraft

4.2 looks Hot!

16 May

Let’s talk Firelands!

My time lately has been divided between raid leadership on the live realms and playtime on the PTR.  While the personal progression goals of our raid team are first in my mind, new content after so long a patch of nothing huge being added is more than welcome.

The Molten Front

New daily quests rarely get my going in a serious way, but the molten front doesn’t feel as grind-y as leveling fishing a day at a time.  The druids of Hyjal call upon the player to collect Marks of the World Tree by completing quests to repair the land and fightback the forces from the Firelands.

Some misconceptions: doing these quests isn’t a requirement to raid the Firelands.  Also, although the area makes huge use of various types of phasing, the quests can largely still be completed in a group (and some of them are a lot easier this way).  Finally, you do have to complete all the quests in Hyjal up to banishing Ragnaros to start these new quests, so go do that now!

As one moves from Hyjal into the Molten Front new daily quests are unlocked.  No one is completing 25 dailies and wishing they had a higher cap every day, but every day a new random group of quests becomes available.  For those not drawn in by fun new content along, there are also item level 365+ epics purchasable from vendors in the Molten Front.

The Firelands Raid

At this point in the testing cycle I’ve only had an opportunity to play against Beth’tilac (giant fire spider) and Lord Rhyolith.  Both fights felt creative, fun, and relatively straightforward for the first few bosses of a new instance.

And if you hate the colour orange, now is a bad time to be playing the game.

The raid feels large, additionally so because of the time spent mounted moving between encounter areas.  Comparisons to Ulduar are apt, and with a dps caster legendary here I expect we will be farming the Firelands for some time to come.  I hope to see some challenging trash packs, although somewhere between the heavy trash of Bastion of Twilight and the virtual trash-less-ness of Blackwing Descent.

The State of the Game

Many players are paying a lot of attention to the numbers Blizzard released during the Q2 press call stating Warcraft subscription numbers had dropped to pre-Cata levels.  These numbers come from 4.0.6 right before the 4.1 re-introduction of the Zuls.  According to the same press conference, they also expained this decline as reflective of how quickly players consumed content.

This means that blizzard’s statement of “X% of players haven’t completed the hard modes yet” might not be the guiding philosophy anymore.  I expect either easier hardmodes where players complete them before getting burnt out on the content (unlikely), more challenging regular modes with fresh ideas (seems to be the case in Firelands so far).  Its possible that blizzard will also react to this by pushing the next content patch soon after Firelands (much like they did for Ulduar’s follower).  I really hope the reactionaries don’t get their way and do this.

Despite the burnout, World of Warcraft is making more money than ever.  That fact talks, so I expect content patches will continue at the quality level we’ve come to expect.  Don’t be surprised if Firelands has harder regular modes than either BoT or BWD.

I’ll get back to you on that after I finish these dailies.

The “I” in Raid Team

27 Mar

Our guild has done well. Well, by the standards of The Underbog, amounts to 12/12 normal modes, a few arena teams over 2400, rated BGs that happen every week, and a player base free of homicidal tendencies (toward each other). It’s important to not forget what we do right.

But with a growing drive to seriously tackle Hardmodes (and the jump in challenge level) members—myself included—are looking at our raid team with a critical eye. What’s the answer when your team doesn’t make the dps check for a fight? Do you scroll down your World of Logs postings to see who’s at the bottom? The impulse to point a finger is a strong one.

There are a few important provisos.  Some classes do better on certain fights.  Players will have bad nights.  A specific encounter may required dramatically different play, higher AoE, even offhealing; forcing a player out of their role may lower dps.  Once you’re certain there is a consistent problem it is appropriate to talk to the player who isn’t pulling her weight.  But now that we’ve identified a problem player, what’s the right tactic?  It comes down to three choices: kick/bench the player, teach the player, or turn them into the kind of raider who teaches themselves.

Players like to suggest that kicking someone out is a simple choice.  In a pick-up-group or a random heroic it is simple.  A regular raid in a committed guild is a more complex environment.  Players need to feel a measure of security to play best for an extended period.  Teams familiar with each other’s play-style also do better.  Every time we trial a new player or change up our raid composition for a night I explain to my raid team that we can expect the pace to slow down as the new player adjusts to our team and style.  A healing team that plays well together knows when a druid HoT will take care of a low health player and when they’ll need to step in with a direct heal.  Kicking a member of an established raid core should always be a last recourse for a serious team.

Teaching the player to do better seems the logical first thing to try. If changing a few gems or using CDs in a different place would improve performance, why not make this suggestion?  Assuming the player is genuinely receptive and that one makes this approach diplomatically (a few major assumptions), this might be a great short-term solution.  The problem comes when advice becomes a handout.  If a player knows they have no danger of being kicked, they feel safe to explore their class and tactics fully.  Conversely, if a player knows they will never have to think about their class because someone will always hand the latest theorycrafting right to them, we have an issue.  A good raid team cannot thrive on the personal growth of one player alone, trickling down to the remaining 24.  The best members will bring a little something more.

I’ve posted before about what makes a good raider, but a raider who teaches themselves might require a little more clarification.  Learning to play well in World of Warcraft is a lot easier now than it has ever been.  Countless blogs, forums, sites, and programs are available to the motivated players.  Teaching yourself is a matter of setting aside the time.  I spoke with a player not long ago who said “all that learning and research stuff is good, but I just want to play the game.”  That’s not an uncommon philosophy.  Imagine, however, how much more enjoyable it is to play extremely well.  Is it not more thrilling to pull to the top of the dps charts?  This style of play, the interest in constantly growing better as a player, is a commitment.  It’s a few hours a week dedicated to becoming better at WoW.  At the advanced level, this is what folks at elitistjerks.com and shadowpriest.com are doing.  Programs like Simcraft and Rawr do help remove the RNG from Best in slot gear lists.   At even the most basic level, sites like AskMrRobot.com and WoWReforge.com can optimize reforging and gemming choices.

Now how do you convince a player to make active and regular use of these tools?  The first step is asking.  After that, you have to let them see the value.  I know a player who’s gone from “I don’t really like to read” to reading six blogs a day based only on how much it improved his personal performance.  Some players never get to this point.  Sadly, these players might not be a long term fit for your raid team if they continue to struggle.

A final note of caution:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

That’s Alexander Pope, and he brings up an excellent point.  Players who read a few blogs or forum posts can quickly become “experts.”  I have a priest healer friend who listened to every Circle of Healing podcast and promptly came back and told be priests should never cast Heal.  Obviously, this isn’t exactly what was said in the podcast.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Be receptive to new ideas, but don’t dismiss anything.  Finally, don’t be a jerk just because you know a thing or two.

Done leveling

8 Dec

Brief update here.

I hit 85 and turned off the computer.  It took me just over 26 hours.  I didn’t level in the best way (we instance ground with friends for the first good chunk of time) and I stopped for a few hours to grind out some professions and race change to goblin.  That said, 26 hours feels like a decent grind time.  Not the best out there, far from the worst.

Then I went for a run and slept.  Best sleep I’ve had in a while, I might add.  I made myself a real meal (not just salsa or peppermint gum) and drank a lot of water.  And had a shower.  Glorious, glorious showering.

What can I say about the grind?  The instances feel good.  The first few were easy with an ICC heroic geared group (and they should be).  The latter few we did required CC and attention, which was a welcome change.  For an all guild group in vent, doing these for the first time was fun and not painful.  I believe we only ever wiped when we got cocky.  I could see pugging these easily enough in a month.

The questing zones are especially well designed.  Goblins, Worgen, and new race/class combos feel like they’ve always been there (and to a degree, they have).  Uldum feels endless without it hindering your rate of questing.  Twilight Highlands looks beautiful and feels as epic as it should.  Garrosh is growing on me.

That’s all for now.  I have to get raid ready, which is going to be a whole other grind.

How to Build a Drama-free Guild

6 Sep

I was discussing at our weekly officer meeting the other night how happy some of our new recruits are in the guild. One of the major factors for a lot of them is the lack of drama. Our officers concluded that the guild has been almost completely drama free for most of the summer, and almost all of the expansion. How do we manage that? Well, it isn’t magic. The guild has been raiding for almost four and a half years, so we’ve learnt the right way to handle a number of situations.

Use a Fair and Upfront System for Loot Distribution

We use a system called EP / GP with aggressive decay and a fairly low threshold. If you’re not familiar with the system, I’d recommend checking it out. Our new members are quickly given the option of obtaining loot, but usually end up getting major upgrades and do not deny longstanding players the few upgrades they still need. EP/GP rewards attendance, and when we had challenges working on the LK we increased the EP awarded every 15 minutes. Attendance increases followed naturally.

In a big guild with some slight fluctuation in regular roster, this system works perfectly for us. I does not work nearly as well for some guilds, so the solution is to chose a loot system that aids in furthering the goals of the guild. Our goals are progression, so giving the best items to the highest attending players is important, as is a reasonable distribution of these upgrades. Beyond this, moral is a big deal. With EP/GP a night of progression where you win no items feels like an accomplishment.

Being completely upfront about a loot system is critical to avoiding drama. Selecting the right one for your guild is perhaps even more important. Loot matters to a player, and it should. It is both a measure of accomplishment, and a tool toward maximizing your character’s potential. Do not overlook something so important to so many of your team members.

Clear Direction from Officers

Drama is created when folks assume the worst. That’s human nature, and its hard to fault people for their fears. If a guild member needs to be kicks, explain why. If you’re taking X raider over Y, give folks the reason (and ideally, a reason that can be worked upon by the at-fault member).

“Okay, we have 28 attending raiders, so we’re going to need a few players to be on standby tonight. We’re taking Bill over Ted, because he has a viable off-healing set for The Excellent Adventure fight.”

“Srubbalicious recently got hacked and asked the Officer Team to remove him from the guild until its all sorted out. Just an FYI—we still like him.” /gkick

The name of the game is transparency. A good officer team makes changes for the good of the guild. If you make this obvious by being clear in your actions, you’ll garner respect, if not always consensus.

Guild Culture and Age Restriction

This has been a hot topic over the history of our guild. I originally disagreed with it, and slowly came to agree with the policy. We do not accept raiders to core raid positions who are under the age of 18. Let me explain.

The I am involved in has a mix of adult and middle aged players. As a 24-year-old, I’m one of the younger players (although many are close to my age). We behave a certain way in vent, guild chat is relatively uncensored, and raid attendance is an expectation.

Historically, younger players do not have enough control over their own lives to meet a tight raid shift. There are players in this age grouping that can, but they’re not the rule. Be it a mother insisting homework be done, a videocard needing replaced that is unaffordable, or the countless social obligations of high-school, folk under 18 are in a different life situation to those of us with control over our own lives.

Queue objections. I’m aware that some adults don’t have a lot of control over their lives. I know some kids do amazing dps and have 200% raid attendance. I am not (despite what it seems) advocating that the solution to drama is pruning yourselves of the kiddies (although it sure helps). I am saying, take a read of your guild.

Know what your guild members are all about. What sort of absence is “completely understandable.” One of our priest recently had emergency surgery, and everyone in the guild encouraged and thought nothing of her taking a few days (although she raided that week, on pain meds. Fucking hardcore). On the other hand, suddenly not showing up for weeks ’cause you got your first girlfriend makes everyone /sigh.

I don’t promise or even begin to suggest I know everything about coordinating and keeping happy a large group of people. I do know what has worked well for us in the past, and I’m beginning to explore the “why” of that success. Join me later in the week for a discussing of cultivating forums use, and the pitfalls associated with such a medium.

SC2 vs WoW: The Endless Battle of Player Interest

28 Jul

Let me start by getting a few things off my chest:

SC2 is awesome

Raiding short some key players is a frustrating experience

I haven’t slept even my usually small amount of time

SC2 is awesome

The experience of the campaign is another example of Blizzard’s extremely talented storytellers letting loose and delivering a deep and immersive gaming experience. A lot of our guild members are as excited by this game as I am.

Some folks aren’t. I held back my excitement for long enough to raid last night and do a post-raid-debrief with a few new recruits. Other guild members I’ve talked to either don’t like RTS games or are busy enough with WoW.

I respect that, so I’ve tried to keep the chatter in check. It’s good to reflect that not everyone is always going to be wildly enthusiastic about the same things.

Our new recruits all show varying levels of promise. We can hand out experience and gear very easily (which all three of them are lacking in slightly), but attendance and enthusiasm are hard to teach. My hope is that a little competitive spirit in our raid group will strengthen attendance.

Blogging has been slow for me. Last night I made the choice to board the Hyperion rather than polish of an spriest guide I’ve been working on. I promise to work on it this week. No promises yet on when it gets posted.

Players Abound! Who are you?

24 Jul

Once again it bears mentioning that this week’s postings are inspired, at least in part, by the experience of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. This shall be the last such post, and next week you can look forward to aggressive shadow priest theorycrafting, or at least fewer references to hippie music.

Folk music, but it’s very nature, is somewhat multigenerational. As the music “of the folk” it tends to dwell on the issues of those folk. Everything from a famed older gentleman known simply as Valdie singing about nuclear waste, to a French Canadian gal singing about linguistic disconnection—different times have different issues.

Likewise, with our World of Warcraft, the different eras that players joined the game influence their styles and understanding of the game.

The Vanilla player has longstanding experience with the game, and has likely found some balance in their life.  Once upon a time, they were a part of one of the best raiding guilds, but now they take a more relaxed pace.  Despite this, their numbers are top, they move out of fires before they even spawn, and they “used to pvp a little” (rocking the High Warlord title).  These folks have likely taken long breaks from the game, but on hard progression they’re your best asset.  “You think this was hard?  You should have seen Naxx.  No, I mean the real Naxx.”

The Burning Crusade player calls for CC on a rough trash pull the first night of Ruby Sanctum.  Everyone laughs, saying CC is a crutch.  After the wipe, everyone quietly talks out how to CC the pull.  These players remember raiding when a different group size meant a different raid, and progressed through fights like KT and Sunwell.  Sometimes BC players are just like Vanilla players and are true loyalist.  Of course, with Burning Crusade marking the introduction of “raiding for all” these folks also learned game dynamics during a time when guild hopping was natural and expected.  Be careful that you’re helping these folks meet their personal goals!

The Wrath of the Lich King player really got into raiding recently, but they make up for it with enthusiasm.  They might play a DK, and always wonder why people complain about “boring talents.”  They hate how the Ashen Verdict rep was so “grindy” and wish ICC had more AoE pulls.  Despite being newer to the game, these folks entered at a time where class tools are everywhere, and bad habits are easily broken.  These people are likely to stayl loyal to the folks who helped them get into raiding, or improve their play.  New Wrath players tend to have fewer alts.

I expect the Cataclysm player will have a more balance schedule, more alts, and better class information.  Still, it will take some time for these folks to really crack into the raiding scene.  Guilds hoping to bolter numbers should remember that guild perks added in Cata will build loyalty, and that a player will always feel most at home with the people who helped make her/him better.  Cataclysm promises to be an exciting time; while the work is falling apart, our guilds are only getting stronger!